All The Light We Cannot See Review

About a week ago I finished the fantastically written All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It's the combined story of two young adults growing up during World War 2. Werner, a German orphan is obsessed with radios and learning to use them; he wants to one day become a scientist. He studies books that are illegal to have, listens to the radio whenever possible, and dreams of a better life than the one he expects to have – working in the mines. At around the same time, Marie Laure, a blind French girl is learning how to navigate her world without sight. Her father constructs intricately designed wood replicas of the cities she lives in and instructs her to study them with her hands, so that were they to ever become separated she would be able to find her way home. Obviously, when the war breaks out, as with all stories, their lives are changed drastically. Marie Laure's father tries to keep his cool telling Marie Laure that they are safe and there is no need to worry until the Germans begin to take over France. Walking for miles and miles, the two leave Paris headed for what they believe will be a safe haven where they can wait out the war. Meanwhile, Werner is accepted into a school for only the brightest and smartest children where he will be trained to fight for his country. Clearly, his life is improving, right? In the most unexpected way possible, neither Marie Laure nor Werner will be able to escape the war without a run-in where they must save one another.

To get an idea of what the story is like, listen to Anthony Doerr read one of the first chapters of the book. Once you hear his writing style, it's hard to accept anything less…

In case you are wondering, no, this is not a love story.

Or maybe it is? I suppose it depends on your definition of love. If you perceive love as heroism or fighting for the good of another, you might be on the right track. This book is not a Disney fairytale nor is it chick-lit. It is a really in depth fictional look at the war from two very different children's perspectives, and it, quite literally, will break your heart in some places.

Here is an interview Doerr did where he explains not only the plot, but also his ideas behind the story.

**possible spoilers ahead**

Despite the fact that the book was well written and (IMHO) definitely deserving of the pulitzer prize, I, once again, came away feeling a little bit let down. The plot was fantastic, and the development of the characters (or at least Marie Laure) was stupendous! I also loved the short chapters that made the book easy to read without resorting to simple word and sentence structures. Doerr knows how to write and leave you hanging… The thing that bothered me most was the climax of the novel. All of a sudden, we see our two characters meet. It's taken them hundreds of pages to get there… And then the story is basically over? Seriously? From that point forward, the book kind of falls flat: the war is over, everyone goes back to not-quite-normal lives, and we forget everything we've worked so hard to get to. Because when the two meet, it's not like they run off to get married, which is what you see in Disney movies and chick-flicks. No, the two are still dealing with the aftermath of the war. He is still in the German army and she is still breaking rules. There needs to be some real and direct consequences. (And yes, if you've read the book, there might technically be some indirect consequences…) In the end, I want to see the story play out in as real a way as possible while still being a somewhat easy/enjoyable read and with well formed sentence structure and plenty of choice vocabulary to boot!

**end possible spoilers**

While the book didn't live entirely up to my expectations, it was a very enjoyable read and one I would highly recommend. From what I understand, All The Light We Cannot See was written over a ten year time span and encompasses a great deal of research done by Doerr. His end goal was to "rely not as heavily on visual detail, but to make up for that by rendering [the] world as fully and richly and colorfully as possible" which is what All the Light We Cannot See does.

What are your thoughts? Have you heard of this novel? Or had a chance to read it? If you haven't, do you think you will in the future?

Buy it here.

* Quotes from The Rumpus interview.


  1. Sounds like a book that needs to find it's way to my TBR pile. Thanks for the review. I am cruising by on the A to Z Road Trip. Nice blog!

    1. It definitely does! Everyone who saw me with it commented on how great of a book it is! :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...